A source close to the investigation into David and Travis Shane Smith has shared excerpts of interviews with a witness central to the case. The interviews were conducted by both local law enforcement and Special Agents from the USDA. The following is a summary of the shared excerpts, as well as information I gathered in my own investigation.
On August 14, 2021 a man who goes by ‘Miner Mike’ was camping near Dogtown Creek, just off Forrest Road 9N49, in the Eldorado National Forrest. According to the man’s wife, Miner Mike is homeless and has been living in the ENF for some time. The couple are estranged and the wife lives out of state.
Miner Mike claims at approximately 6:20 p.m. on the 14th, two men drove by his camp in a side-by-side dune buggy at a high rate of speed. “They were driving recklessly,” he stated. “They were rude when they drove by, down into the ravine.” Moments later Miner Mike reports hearing 8 gunshots, all of which he describes as coming from a pistol. It’s unclear from the reports exactly how much time passed between seeing the side-by-side and hearing the gun shots.
Then, Miner Mike describes the two men driving back up out of the ravine towards him. “They were driving so fast, like assholes,” he says. According to his account, the two men stopped their side-by-side and warned Miner Mike about a fire they spotted down in the ravine. The two men drove off and Miner Mike then left the area. He claims he saw no other people in the area in the moments leading up to the fire.
In a later interview with law enforcement, Miner Mike mentions seeing others on side-by-side dune buggies and hearing gunshots in the days leading up to the fire. In this interview it doesn’t appear he is pressed on whether he saw or heard others in the minutes and hours leading up to the start of the fire.
In other documents, a man who goes by the name of “Bob” appears to corroborate at least some parts of Miner Mike’s account. He also describes seeing the Smiths driving recklessly and hearing gunfire. In interviews with Bob, however, several other people are said to have been in the area including juveniles, campers, and homeless people on the day the fire began.
It should be noted there may be a slight discrepancy in the timeline. The District Attorney states that Travis Shane Smith called 911 for the first time at 6:50 p.m. after driving out of the ravine to the rim in order to get cell service. Miner Mike states he saw the Smiths exiting the ravine closer to 6:25. Regardless, it seems Miner Mike and Bob may be the “campers” Travis Shane mentioned to another witness shortly thereafter and farther up the ravine.
It should also be noted that neither Miner Mike, nor Bob, nor the witness I previously wrote about saw David or Travis Shane Smith fire a weapon at any time on August 14, nor did these witnesses see either of the Smiths start a fire. As I previously reported, DNA evidence purportedly belonging to Travis Shane was found in the vicinity of the scene, but the defense team is not disputing that the Smiths were in the area the day the fire began.
Attorneys for the Smiths continue to maintain their clients’ innocence.